by Kailin Solomons
Today we have a brand new social enterprise, started by the inspirationally proactive Sol Escobar. Give Your Best is a website where those with refugee status or seeking asylum can shop (for free), choosing from photos of donated items. Theseitems are then shipped from donors to Give Your Best volunteers, a charity local to the shopper for pick up, or directly to the shopper themselves. Give Your Best wants to support womxn who are refugeesor asylum seekingby providing them the agency they deserve. In doing this, Give Your Best aims to be an educational platform,sharing information about the many barriers these womxn face and promoting sustainable fashion.
Alongside her day job at Cambridge University, Sol has been volunteering for many years. She has worked with refugees in Cambridge and made many trips to Calais. Sol had experienced many challenges when immigrating herself, but through her volunteer work she witnessed just how many barriers and discrimination refugees face, simply because they didn’t leave their homes by choice. She is dedicated to removing these barriers and building supportive communities grounded in empathetic human connection.
In the face of the pandemic, Sol continued to reach out to refugees and asylum seekers online to provide whatever support she could. One of these women told Sol about having to make choices like paying for the bus to go the doctor or buying food, as she has to try and survive on the government’s £5 dailyallowance. Upon hearing this, Sol wanted to send her, and the other eight women in her shared government housing, a care package of essentials and some nicer things, that they would have no hope of purchasing themselves. After doing a call-out on Instagram, Sol raised hundreds of pounds in 24 hours to purchase things for this package, as well as many, many items of clothing.
When she was putting this package together, she realised that sending these women a bunch of random clothes that wouldn’t necessarily fit or that they may not like, would be rude and insensitive. Just because they can’t afford clothes right now, doesn’t mean they should be stuck with whatever they are given. Sol decided to fix this problem by sending them pictures of the different items so that they could choose which they’d like, and thus informally started Give Your Best.
In reality, it took another call-out, and a few Zoom meetings to help get this project up and running, but I was so inspired by Sol’s confidence and drive to jump into action. She created a solution to a problem it was in her power to help fix.In justfew months, this powerhouse team have already sent out over 1500 items to over 1000 women.
If you want to donate some of your best items of clothing that you no longer want, you can fill in a form on their website, or email Sol and her team at email@example.com with pictures of your clothes and some details about the items. These then go up on the Give Your Best website and Instagram, so that refugee and asylum seeking womxn can pick what they want and message the team which items they would like shipped to them. Give Your Best currently has three different methods to get the items between the donor and the shopper to ensure these vulnerable womxn are comfortable and secure. Give Your Best hopes to be able to cover shipping costs soon, but for now they ask donors to pay for shipping as another form of giving. They have also partnered with Hey Girls UK,to provide free menstrual products with every clothes order.
Give Your Best is a small (but mighty) team at the moment, but they have plans to expand and support those who have been displaced in many more ways. These goals include providing baby and children’s clothes, setting up a physical processing centre, partnering with other charities and clothing brands, and getting asylum seekers involved. While people seeking asylumcannot be employed, Give Your Best provides them the opportunity to volunteer, and in exchange support them in other ways. Currently their team includes some of the very first women Give Your Best supported, who wanted to help those in their same situation. This provides asylum seeking womxn with meaningful work, a community, and valuable work experience to support them entering the job market later, while they wait for their status decision. However, they cannot do all this alone. Give Your Best is currently looking for volunteers with skills in PR, Crowdfunding and Web Development.They would also love to hear from anyone who would like to help with looking for funding and writing grant applications, or thinks they have any other skills that would be push them towards these goals.
I asked Sol why people should consider donating clothes to Give Your Best, as opposed to dropping them at their local charity shop. She responded by saying that of course you can keep donating clothes to charity shops, but that often they receive too much stock and clothes end up being thrown away. Also, charity shops are selling clothes to raise money for their charity to use, which is great, but when you pick a piece for Give Your Best, you know that is going directly to someone who needs and loves that item of clothing. Give Your Best is trying to redefine the concept of a donation, turning it into a gift: the gift of choice and connection between sender and receiver. Sol lightly remarks that “just because you have a different legal status or don’t have money to buy clothes, doesn’t mean you don’t have a fashion sense, it’s important to be able to choose what you wear”. This act of providing choice is the crux of Give Your Best’s work. In this small act, they are givingwomxn the agency and dignity that our society and government is not. Sol asks that you consider this when gifting your pre-loved clothes and says,“If you wouldn’t give this to a friend, just because someone is in a situation where they have lost everything, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve better”.
Sol lightly remarks that “just because you have a different legal status or don’t have money to buy clothes, doesn’t mean you don’t have a fashion sense, it’s important to be able to choose what you wear”. This act of providing choice is the crux of Give Your Best’s work. In this small act, they are giving womxn the agency and dignity that our society and government is not. Sol asks that you consider this when gifting your pre-loved clothes and says, “If you wouldn’t give this to a friend, just because someone is in a situation where they have lost everything, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve better”. In her years of working with people seeking asylum and those with refugee states, Sol remarks that focussing on the whole crisis can sometimes feel defeating, that it is impossible to solve as one person. However, you can help one other person, you can give them the essentials they need, you can help them navigate this culture that is new to them, you can make them feel welcome. Sol, and her powerful team of volunteers, have provided an outlet for people to “give their best” not only of their clothes, but of themselves. The womxn at Give Your Best are creating a community and connecting people. So, I encourage you to take a moment and snap a couple pics of that great dress that didn’t end up fitting quite right, or a lovely, extratoasty winter coat that just sits in the back of your closet, and send them over to Give Your Best, so that someone can find their new perfect fit!
Support by gifting clothes and donating funds at www.giveyourbest.uk
Learn more by following @giveyourbest.uk on social media
To volunteer email firstname.lastname@example.org
For partnerships please email email@example.com
To speak to Sol you can contact her directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Charity Spotlight Series is written by Kailin Solomons. If there are charities or organisations you would like us to feature please get in touch.